The Ergonomics of Gardening

Posted on Aug 11 2015 - 5:26am

Garden HarvestGardening isn’t as simple as pulling weeds and planting flowers.  As people get older, crouching down to check on the garden can leave many with a bad back, or worse. This is something that many can’t really avoid, but there are ways to make sure that there’s proper ergonomics in gardening.

Choosing the right tools

Gardening tools may look the same to the untrained eye, but picking out the right ones with a good ergonomic design is important to make sure gardening is easy on the back and efficient.  One of the tell-tale signs of a good ergonomic tool is when it has a rubber padding on the handle. The padding itself should have a non-slip texture and should feel comfortable and easy to hold. Additionally, cushioned grip handles prevent wrists from being pushed to one side or bending forward. A wrist that bends forward loses grip strength overtime and can also be painful to the joints.

Gardening ToolsAnother sign of a good ergonomic tool is when the handle itself is bent or curved inwards at the top. This, along with the non-slip padding, makes tools like pruners and a garden hoe easier to grip and use. Jan McNeilan, a consumer horticulture agent for the Oregon State University Extension Service suggests that older gardeners or those with bad backs should use’ long-handled tools and use plastic handle extenders to help improve leverage.’

Posture matters

Aside from the perfect ergonomically designed tool, a person’s posture plays a critical role in gardening. Keeping a good posture may be difficult, especially when there’s a lot of sitting, crouching, and bending, but it helps reduce the strain on the back and the joints. When pulling weeds, maintaining a neutral posture is key to avoiding future back problems. McNeilan suggests pushing rather than pulling to avoid pulling the back along with the weeds.  Bending the knees is also the right way to crouch or lift something as it avoid putting unnecessary and unnatural strain on the back.

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For those working closer to the ground, kneeling with one knee while crouching is the right way. Kneeling with both knees means technically rounding and bending the back, but with just one knee, the back is kept straight. Many people tend to kneel with both knees and they eventually develop back problems due to improper posture.

Ergonomics plays a key role in gardening and with the right tools, the physical impacts and strains of gardening can be lessened. It also allows gardeners to do more in a smaller amount time and stay healthy when doing strenuous activities.